I was introduced to Instafreebie as part of Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing 101 course which included mention of it and a voucher for an extra month’s premium subscription. Instafreebie is a site to which authors upload .mobi, .epub and (optionally) .pdf versions of their books that can then be downloaded in exchange for an email address. While I got a trickle of new subscribers simply by being on Instafreebie, I knew that the real power of the platform is when authors get together to offer a Group Giveaway.

For a Group Giveaway, one author creates a page on their website to host thumbnails, descriptions and links for all the books in the giveaway. In my case, we had 26 books in total – all submitted by fellow 101 students. The idea is that, when the giveaway launches, all the authors promote the giveaway page using whatever means they have at their disposal – email lists, Facebook, Twitter or whatever. This drives traffic to the page and visitors can then choose to download as many books as they like, each in exchange for their email address.

Most of the students in 101 have fairly small or non-existent lists and it is likely that most of the traffic was contributed by a small number of more experienced authors with the larger lists. Given this, I wasn’t expecting massive results but, in my case, my email list grew from 43 to 550 in the space of ten days. Bear in mind that the 43 existing subscribers had cost me several pounds each to attract (mainly through a competition). I know that some authors did even better, but I only had a novelette and a preview and my genre (comic fantasy) is pretty niche so I was delighted. I also know that some other giveaways have added thousands to the contributors’ lists, but those would have been run by authors with big followings and, in the cases I’ve seen, generally in Romance sub-genres, which tend to be very popular.

No, for me, 500 new subscribers in 10 days was jaw-droppingly good.

Analysis

Aside from the raw numbers, I was most interested to see which were the most effective forms of marketing over those ten days or so. In the chart below, the blue bars show the percentage of the group giveaway page’s total visits that occurred on that day (total visits over the entire period amounted to just over 6,000). The red line shows the percentage of book claims made on that day – based on my books only but, presumably, the pattern would be the same for everyone.

You’ll see that the first two days of the promotion accounted for 30% of the total visits (15% each day), but they resulted in over 50% of the total claims for the entire giveaway. There was a big drop off in both visits and claims, until the 21st when InstaFreebie promoted the group giveaway. That day accounted for nearly a third of all the visits, but only 20% of the claims.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

The vast majority of visits were driven by email (I estimate around 85%), with Facebook accounting for around 4% and Twitter less than 1% – the figures for these two are probably a little higher because there were around 10% of clicks that Google Analytics can’t attribute.

So, the overriding lesson from this first giveaway is that the most effective way to promote a free book is via an email list. This isn’t particularly surprising – but the figures suggest that it really is the only game in town, at least with this first giveaway. Also, emails sent to the lists of Fantasy authors are more effective than Instafreebie’s own promotional activities in driving claims – presumably because our lists are more targeted.

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